This week we invite a young writer on the front end of his budding career. He maps out some of the things he looks for to find success. Welcome, Matthew Varney to the Wordwraiths!
Of all the
barriers that separate the winners from the losers, I believe there is only one
that truly matters: willpower.
certain winners are the hustlers—the
go-getters—for they don’t need
God-given talent or innate intelligence to make
it big. They need only the will to develop those things for themselves, through
hard work and perseverance.
Such is the attitude I’ve adopted in my
quest to go from novice writer to world-class writer. I decided it
would be foolish to leave my success to chance, to let the winds of society
carry me where they will—so I took the initiative to structure my
life around a system of habits that facilitate personal growth not only in the
field of writing, but all areas of life that benefit from the broadening of
general knowledge and literary experience.
Habits are the
things that dictate our success. And while it takes much willpower to install
them, it takes very little to maintain them after they’ve been employed for a long
time. That’s what makes them so powerful.
I don’t claim to be any sort of expert in this sphere. Indeed, at a
mere eighteen years of age I’ve only just begun my journey through life, and this “system of habits” may very well lead me nowhere. But I
have faith in reason, the
chiefest principle of my
deliberations. I trust you will take
from my strategy only what you find reasonable and self-evident.
ado, here are some of the habits that
constitute my life.
every unfamiliar word I stumble upon. Every
habit has a trigger that sets it in motion; people tend to engage in bad ones
like overeating when they’re stressed, hygienic ones
like teeth-brushing upon waking, etc. The trigger for this particular habit is,
as you could guess, the encountering of
an unknown word in my studies, or anywhere else for that matter.
I’ve trained myself to rapidly look up and
write down such words upon recognition and have already noticed a significant
increase in my vocabulary—and in turn, my writing quality—because
of it. I’ll admit, the practice can be quite
tedious while reading a book chock-full of polysyllabic terminology; but, in
theory, the frequency
at which my habit requires me to consult the
dictionary will decrease in proportion to the number of words I don’t
curiosity. Similar to the previous habit, the
trigger for this one is confusion. When I find myself unable
to fully understand the material I’m reading due to a lack of education in
the subject, I often go straight to Wikipedia to enlighten
myself, even if only to gain a superficial understanding of it.
They say the best
authors write what they know; if you’re a retired general, you have
an advantage in writing great war stories. If you’re a doctor, who could possibly write a
better medical drama? And of course, if you’re a polymath who lives
a habitually curious life, there’ll be few limits to what genres and specialties you can
write about with excellency.
daily. This one should go without saying; if
you want to get good at something, practicing that
thing regularly is the surest way to do it. You don’t have to write a masterpiece every day; just write
something. Half a blog post, a sentence of your novel, a one-paragraph
I’ve found that many months of writing
daily has changed my relationship with writing. Today, the action of it doesn’t feel like
work so much as an integral part of my
being that automatically carries itself out, like breathing.
daily. Don’t just read blog posts and Tweets … consume actual
books with deep substance—fiction and
non-fiction. Once again, this should go without saying. To echo the
words of Socrates, reading allows us to come easily by the insights and inspirations
that others labored hard for.
I didn’t become an avid reader until very
recently. And when I did, my only regret was that I hadn’t delved into the literary medium
sooner. Unlike the dumbed-down material we’ve come to expect from the
mass media, good literature makes you more worldly and intelligent in a way
nothing else can, save for true experience.
5. Blogging regularly. I
write a post every week on my blog, MatthewVarney.net, for
many reasons. Not only does this expand on the premise of my write every day
habit to provide more writing experience, but publishing quality content
regularly keeps you relevant among internet-dwellers and
builds you a good following.
I’ve heard that selling books is an easy
thing when you have a hungry fanbase waiting to consume your work at
a moment’s notice, and I can think of no better
way to build such a fanbase than with a blog or something similar.
6. Being mindful. Writing
requires a lot of patience and focus, and it just so happens that those things
only exist in the present moment. When your mind wanders into the future or the
past, you start to conceive of alternate realities where you’re doing something stimulating, like
surfing the web or watching TV, rather than writing.
The key to
writing without getting distracted lies in developing the
capacity to enjoy the moment that’s right there in front of you, whether
it’s action-packed or not. Such
is no less a habit than anything else on this list and none the harder to
adopt. It’s probably one of the most valuable
habits one can have, as its tranquil influence
extends to all areas of life.
In conclusion, I
wish the best of luck to any enterprising
writers who might be reading this. To anyone else, writer or not, I reckon
there’re more than a few ideas you can reclaim
from this post for use in your own life, to live more consciously and ultimately
seize control of your destiny.